10 Reasons Breastfeeding is Good For Women, Too

Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

The WHO knows it. The AAP knows it. Even the formula companies have to admit that breastmilk is the healthiest food for infants.

Choosing to nurse your baby may mean the sacrifice of many hours in the rocking chair, but studies prove many health benefits for mothers who breastfeed as well.

Breastfeeding Mothers Have a Lower Risk of:

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. Ovarian Cancer
  3. Type 2 Diabetes
  4. Postpartum Depression

The Longer a Woman Breastfeeds, Her Risk Gets Even Lower for:

  1. High Blood Pressure
  2. High Cholesterol
  3. Cardiovascular Disease

Initial Postpartum Advantages Include:

  1. Inducing Uterine Contractions (to restore uterus to proper size)
  2. Decreasing Postpartum Blood Loss

And it Just Feels Good:

  1. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, a hormone which makes women calm, relaxed, and a little bit foggy on the details of life, which could protect from stress or could be…um…searching for the right word…um…bad. Like if you’re trying to write coherent sentences. (Did I mention I’m nursing a newborn right now?)

Who wants the prize for longest total time breastfeeding? How many years have you nursed babies?

Sources: Women’s Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Breastfeeding Committee

Disclaimer: Yes, I know, plenty of women cannot nurse for a variety of reasons. This post is not meant to make them feel badly, judge their circumstances or comment on their situation in any way.

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Comments

  1. I don’t need a prize, and am probably not the person who’s breastfed the longest. I’m still nursing our youngest, he’s almost 22 months, and our oldest was breastfed for 15 months. There’s just no reason to stop after a certain amount of months!
    Thanks for writing this post :)

  2. I breastfed six children for various times but it averaged about a year each. They tended to give it up on their own when they were walking around, eating food, etc.

    You didn’t mention how seldom a woman has her menstrual cycle during breastfeeding, at least during the early months when it’s frequent. That is a very pleasant side effect as well, though of course it shouldn’t be considered a form of birth control.

  3. I nursed my son until he was 3.5 and I am currently nursing my 2 month old daughter. I started out thinking, “well I guess I will nurse for 6 months…” to loving everything about it. <3

  4. Surely, I am not the one that will win the prize, but I am proud to say that I am nursing my newborn now and my son nursed until he was 3 years 1 month :o) (would have gone longer too)
    Great post!

  5. Nursing didn’t come easy to us ~ We had some major roadblocks ~ my baby had a bad latch, I developed a raging infection that took some time to diagnose ~ but once my babe and I got the hang of it, it was amazing. Amazing for both of us. Great bonding and great for our health. In fact, I am still nursing, and my daughter will be two next month. Nursing my child is my proudest accomplishment.

  6. As my friends say, “I’m all boob, all the time.” I’ve been nursing, or pregnant or both since the summer of 2004. Baby number 3 was nursing as I read your article. :-)

  7. I am definitely not the longest, but I’m very proud that I’ve been nursing my son for 13 months and we’re nowhere near ready to be done! :)

  8. Love it – just began nursing again this weekend after giving birth to #5, struggling thru painful nipples right now and loved the reminder this morning to “keep on” – as for “how long” – I have been nursing and/or pregnant for 7 years straight this month 😉 I have never tandem nursed so I have weaned during each pregnancy, but I have been doing on or the other, and usually both for the first 4-5 months of the pregnancy for 7 years. And since I just started nursing again, I have at least another year to tack on there before we are done.

  9. I am a single full-time working mother of a beautiful 2.5 yr old daughter and she still nurses! I pumped during the day for a year and a half and nursed mornings, evenings and nights for the last 2.5 yrs! This has been the most beautiful experience I have ever had! Hard, but beautiful and worth every minute!!!

  10. During my pregnancy I wanted to breastfeed for a year. Then the reality of soreness, plugged ducts, mastitis, etc. hit after delivery and I promised myself I’d make it to 6 weeks and then “decide”. Of course, by 6 weeks, all was going well. Now we are still nursing at 15 months old with no signs of stopping and I’m loving it. It’s amazing how much our feelings towards BFing can fluctuate. It’s hard at times, but always worth it. Kind of like parenthood in general…

  11. I’m so glad for this encouraging reminder! Our baby #4 is due in a few weeks. I nursed our first three kids for at least 2 years, they each weaned at different times after that. Apart from the health benefits, breastfeeding always seemed to be so much easier than bottle feeding (less stuff!).

    For me, exclusive/ecological breastfeeding (no bottles, no pacifiers, no solids until around 6mos./first teeth, keeping baby close at night) delayed my periods for 12-18 months and spaced all of our kids 3 years apart naturally.

  12. Out of 3 kids. Our oldest didn’t nurse. Our youngest boy nursed for a year and our youngest is 3.5 and still nursing with no sign of wanting to quite. All day and all night.

  13. You forgot my favorite side effect of BFing – the weight loss! Lactating uses more calories than gestating! Baby literally sucks the pounds off of me! Woohoo! :)

    Oldest went to about 14.5 months, then I was away for a couple of days and he didn’t seem to miss it. Middle made it to 15 mo or so. I didn’t offer one night, and she didn’t care. Youngest is almost 6-mo and going strong. We started a few solids the other day, but I expect she’ll keep going until 14 or 15 months too!

  14. I nursed my little girl until just last month, when she was 26 months. Then, I found out I am pregnant again and my milk just seemed to dry up. It was a very natural and peaceful transition as my daughter could understand that there wasn’t any more milk. I am excited to nurse another baby next spring!

  15. And, even though it is not a for sure form of birth control and it varies by person to person on when they will ovulate. Let’s not forget that breastfeeding can help as a form of suppressing ovulation. You know so you don’t get preggers again right after you have that little bundle of joy? Breastfeeding is great for mothers too!

  16. avatar
    Darcy Taylor says:

    Can I add a word for those women for which breastfeeding does not feel good? I suffer from mild to moderate Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER, you can learn about it at http://www.d-mer.org) in which my dopamine levels drop abnormally low during milk let-down (in response to oxytocin, I think). This results in me experiencing a brief wave of depression each time I feed my baby (it lasts about 30 seconds; I don’t always notice it if I am distracted by a conversation or something else captivating; and it was much worse during the first three months when my milk supply was very high – stronger let-downs). I breastfed my son for 11 months and am now breastfeeding my daughter who is almost 6 months. I somehow do still love breastfeeding and am saddened by the prospect of weaning my baby, but I also frequently have thoughts of quitting breastfeeding when I am in the midst of those awful waves of depression. It is tiring to feel that over and over each day, even though it is brief. I am thankful that I only suffer from this to a mild or sometimes moderate degree, because there are some women who have severe, awful D-MER reactions to milk let-down – for these women, breastfeeding may truly not be an option (Wellbutrin can help, but might not). I know a woman who feels nauseous each time she breastfeeds, a woman who was not able to breastfeed more than a few weeks because the skin on her chest and throat felt like it was burning and incredibly itchy each time she breastfed (thus causing her great anxiety/panic/anger each time as she clawed at her skin), and I know plenty of women who cannot lose weight while breastfeeding or even gain weight (then lose it easily once they have weaned their baby). Anyway, I just wanted to put a few words for those moms for who breastfeeding is not always or ever a joy, and who may even grieve the fact that it isn’t. Just in case there are any moms reading these comments who are like me and need to know that there is someone other than them who can’t always sing the praises of breastfeeding.

    • Darcy,
      What a painful emotional challenge that must be! I’ve never heard ot D-MER either, and I’m so glad you commented so that more women know they’re not alone. Thank you (and kudos to you for pressing on even through adversity) – Katie

  17. avatar
    Darcy Taylor says:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to end the conversation! My comment wasn’t meant to make other women feel that they shouldn’t share their awesome experiences with breastfeeding for fear of making someone feel badly – please do share! Breastfeeding needs to be proclaimed and celebrated! I do not resent that other women typically have better experiences with it than me. Breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and there is almost nothing better as a new mom than to look at your tiny babe cuddled up to your breast with their eyes closed, perfectly soothed and content. My intent was to let other women who are struggling with an uncommon reaction to breastfeeding know that they are not alone, and that there may even be a name for their reaction – I had never come across a description of D-MER in any breastfeeding books, was not told about it in my breastfeeding class, and only learned about it by searching the internet with my symptoms and discovering http://www.d-mer.org.

  18. I am tandem breastfeeding my 3 year old and 1 year old. I love it! (Although I currently have a blocked duct as I write this!)

  19. I wanted so badly to breastfeed my daughter, to the point of not wanting to register for bottles or anything of that sort, stating that I would not need them. I was unable to produce enough milk and by the time I realized that my plan wasn’t going to work my daughter was a month old and a pound under her birth weight. We supplemented with formula as I continued drinking gallons of water, taking fenugreek, drinking boxes of mother’s milk tea and even taking the prescription drug with the side effect of increased lactation with no success. I would nurse for 45 minutes, pee, refill my water, pump for 45 minutes, pee, refill my water, nurse for 45 minutes, etc all day. Then I went back to work when she was 5 weeks old. There went my milk. It was devastating. I read these stories and wish that I could have had the joy of breastfeeding. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen and no matter how hard you try, it’s not your fault. I just wanted to throw that out there for people like me, who suffered a devastating loss when unable to provide the most basic need of your child. Someday I hope to be a lactation consultant to help other mothers the way a lactation consultant helped me during those first few weeks.

  20. A great post sharing the benefits of breastfeeding that are overlooked a lot of times. So many of these are long term effects that can help down the road. My kids are all grown now, I did breast feed all 4, but they were all weaned by 6 months. I wish I knew then what I know now!
    Bernice

  21. I’ve been nursing babies straight since July 2002, except for 3 months when baby 3 weaned before baby 4 was born. My current nursling (age 26 months) has slowed way down, so I’m not sure if we’ll be tandeming when baby 6 arrives or not (due early December). Before these last ten years being pregnant/nursing, I also nursed my first baby for two years. Of my five children so far, the shortest weaning age was 23 months, the longest was on her fourth birthday. I have tandemed two sets of babies. I am so thankful that breastfeeding went so well for me and my babies.

  22. As of this month, I’ve breastfed 59 months of my life. My children are spread out quite a bit and I’ve had breaks between them (which was really good for my body to have the break), but I’ve never tired of breastfeeding. I love it! And I love reading all the commenters’ stories. Women’s bodies do amazing things!

  23. Breast feeding is the best for babies….This is great article It can help especially for the mother doing breast feeding….Great post!

  24. I read through this article and comments with tears in my eyes. How beautiful and lovely breastfeeding is! I had a wonderful experience nursing my oldest, she weaned herself at 15 months when I became pregnant with #2. I had every intention of breastfeeding my son and fully expected an equally wonderful experience. Then he was born unexpectedly at 30 weeks after a completely healthy pregnancy. Due to complications related to his prematurity, he was never able to breastfeed successfully. I never realized how much of my identity as a mother was wrapped up in breastfeeding. He drank my pumped milk until my supply dried up at 8 months. I spent a long time mourning what could have been instead of focusing on the wonder of what is. I’m learning instead to be thankful for snuggles and kisses and pats and sweet smiles from my beautiful little boy, and let the rest go.

  25. I am currently nursing my 22 month old nummie lovin daughter. Nursed my oldest (now 3) for 11 months before I had to stop nursing when I got preggers with my youngest. (I am high risk and we almost lost her). I think the best “prize” is looking down and realize she is looking up at me while nursing….. OHHHHH gets me every time!

    • oops! sorry! made an error! re doing my reply! I am currently nursing my 22 month old nummie lovin daughter. Nursed my oldest (now 3) for 11 months before I had to stop nursing when I got preggers with my youngest. (I am high risk and we almost lost her). I think the best “prize” is looking down and realize she is looking up at me while nursing….. OHHHHH gets me every time!

  26. I am still nursing my 12 month old, hopefully we can knock the biting, shes been doing it almost every feed for nearly 3 weeks and have tried everything, me and my husband hoped I could nurse her till she was 2, before biting it was lovely, such a wonderful bonding experience, still is when she doesn’t bite. Just a little hurdle to over come I suppose *fingers crossed*

  27. I went 16 months with my first two. Number three is still a new baby. :)

    I call nursing a slight drug trip. 😉 Oxytocin makes you feel illogically happy. Or maybe it’s the smell and feel of a sweet little baby?

  28. Does breastfeeding really help with post partum depression? I nursed for 6 months and I’m pretty sure I had post partum drepression. I wanted to nurse so bad that I never went to the doctors for it cause I thought they would put me on medication which would prevent me from breastfeeding. Is there are more imformation about nursing and postpartum depression? My little one is 16 months and my husband and I want to start trying to have another one and I would like to be more prepared then the first. THANKS!!!

    • Hi Amy. I saw your comment and could so relate. I had postpartum depression (ppd), despite nursing. I know there are a lot of opinions out there on the subject of antidepressants and breastfeeding and no one can tell you what the right choice is for you. I do know that while antidepressants are transmitted to breast milk, they are classified at the lowest risk level. In other words, the medical benefits are considered to outweigh the risks. For me, the potential risks of medication were outweighed by the benefits of being a present, happy, nursing mother. I’m certainly not an expert, just someone who’s been there.

    • Placenta encapsulation is supposed to help a -lot- with PPD, and also is said to increase milk supply so you should look into that! I’m due Wednesday with my first baby and I’m excited to try it out.

  29. i am currently nursing baby #4, pregnant with baby #5, and have nursed since feb 12, 2004 with only a cumulative 4 months break! (nursed through pregnancies almost to the end, and not sure this one will give it up before the new baby arrives so i may be tandem this next go around… we will see!)

  30. My daughter just turned four and e’re still nursing! Great news for me! Thank you for sharing!

  31. I have nursed “a” child since 1999, when our oldest was born (he’s 11 now.) They do not get solids until their first birthdays (although for the first ~six months I have used a pacifier for several of our five), and I have weaned each of them at about 2 years (give or take.) I would say that I have nursed longest, BUT I have a friend who nursed her second for the first four years. When she got pregnant with #3 (she has 4 now), her #2 discovered that this thing called “bottles” exist. He told his mother, “That is great! Now when the baby is born, he can have a bottle so I can still have MILK!” *ahem* He weaned shortly thereafter ;D

    Seriously though, her oldest is 13 now and she has been nursing “a” baby since 1997 so she beats me easily! :)

  32. Still breastfeeding my 17 month old, and after such a rocky start, am SO happy to be able to do so. :)
    I will certainly really miss it when it is over.

  33. I don’t want a prize but my son is 4 next month and still nurses at night and at nap time on the weekends. and sometimes when he wakes up in the morning but that is very rare. he was never a grab my shirt and nurse whenever kind of kid and a few times he’s said “I don’t want to do sideahs – he calls them that because since he was little I’d say “time to switch sides” so he thought they were sides :)). I just couldn’t figure out how to stop him, it felt so cold to say “now stop” and more effort then I wanted to put into it so…i just haven’t.

  34. I’d have to say that I got my period a month or two after he was born so that certainly has not been a side effect for me. I did have to pump the first month because he was born early and in the NICU and just too tiny (according to them) to nurse…luckily there was no type of nipple confusion that so many people claim you have. I didn’t have any set “this is when it will end” in my mind…my son is pretty good about stopping and starting things on his own time table and with this, I’m fine to go along with it. but ask me in a year if that’s true and I may change my mind, who knows! :) I DO think if he had been a kid who grabbed my shirt and pulled it up whenever he wanted this would have been ended much sooner.

  35. I have either been nursing or pregnant for 7 years (or both for short times). I’m still nursing my youngest at 2 1/2 yrs at naps and bedtime. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to nurse all my three children.

  36. Wow, so many mamas nursing toddlers (and beyond!). I have been nursing for 7 years, 3 months straight – through two pregnancies. I’ve tandem nursed two sets of babies/toddlers for about 13 months each time. (my first nursed for 4 years – when I was nursing her 13 month old brother and found i was expecting a third baby. my second nursed 2 year 9 mo). Hoping I’m not going to go into depression when my “baby” weans (he is 2 1/2 years now), as my hubby wants no more babies :(

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